Jews note rise in anti-Semitism

Communities step up private security, coordination with local authorities.

jp.services1 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
Anti-Semitic acts are becoming increasingly prevalent during Israel's offensive against Lebanon, Jewish communities worldwide have reported. In response, they have stepped up private security and coordination with local authorities. Friday's fatal shooting of an employee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle was followed by further incidents over the weekend. On Sunday, the windows of a synagogue in Australia were broken and two Florida synagogues and Jewish businesses were defaced by graffiti, while several groups have received threatening e-mails and letters. Since the fighting began "there's been a rise in expressions of hostility toward Israel" and "a spike in incidents of anti-Semitism," according to Paul Gardner, chairman of Bnai Brith of Australia's Anti-Defamation Committee. "So this is not surprising." Australian media reported that officers were searching for 10 men of Middle Eastern appearance seen laughing and running from the synagogue soon after cement blocks were hurled at a Sydney synagogue, an attack believed to be connected to events in Lebanon. Gardner said the Australian Jewish community - which numbers about 120,000 - had expressed "concern" but not fear, echoing comments made throughout the Jewish world. Judy Gilbert-Gould, who heads the Jewish Community Relations Council for the Miami federation, also said that the community wasn't afraid, but that it was "saddened and dismayed." One of the perpetrators of the Miami desecrations, a youth, has been held by police after swastikas and KKK lettering appeared on two synagogues, a kosher butcher and a Judaica store. Gilbert-Gould said there was no specific proof of a connection between the vandalism and the Middle East conflict, but pointed to the coincidence of the timing and the fact that the issue was constantly in the public eye. Mark Garner, spokesman for British Jewry's Community Security Trust, estimated that there has been a 25 percent increase in anti-Jewish incidents since Israeli-Hizbullah violence broke out nearly three weeks ago. He said there had been a particular rise in the number of threatening e-mails individuals had received, many of which mentioned the situation in Lebanon. "It's a really dangerous and difficult time," he said. "I'm keenly aware that these are exactly the types of conditions that terrorists will use to pin an attack on." He added that his organization had received no news of specific threats, but is "in more than daily contact" with the British police. Serge Cwajgenbaum, secretary general of the European Jewish Congress, said that he was not aware of any targeted threats facing European communities, though he added that security had been bolstered across Eastern and Western Europe. "We must be very careful and remain extremely vigilant," he said. Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, also said that there had been no specific threats received in America, but that the national security network for Jewish communities has five former law enforcement officials working full-time on security and that they were in constant contact with Jewish leaders, particularly after the Seattle murder. "We are urging people to be more vigilant," he said. "Incidents like the shooting tend to invite copycatting."